Written by: Cally Worden
Foster parents provide a temporary, safe home for children who are unable to remain with their parents or guardian. It is an invaluable service offered by people across the UK, and there are currently more than 50,000 children in the foster care round the country. If you imagine that this could be a role suitable for you then read on. Demand often outstrips supply where foster care is concerned, and your interest and assistance will always be received positively. Here’s what you need to know.
Who to Contact
Fostering services in the UK are managed by local councils. Many have their own register of foster carers, and also employ the services of one of the many Fostering Agencies that operate across the UK. Contacting your council or anyone of the Fostering Agencies in your area will set you off on the right path.
What Happens Next?
The council or agency will set about collating a file on you in order to assess your suitability for the role. This includes a home visit, a check on your general health, and a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check that searches for any criminal convictions or warning notices posted against you. References for your suitability will be requested from non-family members in support of your application.
Following these mandatory checks and a period of information gathering, prospective foster parents attend a group preparation and training session with other applicants. Over the course of the subsequent 4-6 months further home visits will be made and applicants have the opportunity to meet experienced foster carers and other key people in the care system.
Applications are ultimately assessed by an independent panel of fostering experts, who will include the supervising Social Worker who has been charged with following your application. Once approved, you are eligible to offer fostering services.
Who can Apply?
There is no one specific profile that defines a Foster Parent. You marital or relationship status is generally unimportant, and individuals of all races, ages an ethnicities are considered. Families must be able to commit to one carer being available full-time for the foster child, so stay-at-home parent status, and/or flexible and part-time working arrangements within the family unit are a bonus. You do not have to own your own home to make a successful application, but must have at least one bedroom that can be dedicated to any foster child who comes into your care.
What are the Financial Implications?
Foster Parents receive a fostering allowance when they have a child in their care, and may be exempt from paying tax on this allowance, depending on their overall financial situation. The standard fostering allowance is in the region of ¬£360 per week, and you may be entitled to claim Working Tax Credit. Foster Parents must register as self-employed and ensure their personal payment of any applicable National Insurance contributions.
What’s Involved in Foster Caring?
Becoming a Foster Parent is not a step to be taken lightly. It can be extremely rewarding, but also very hard work. Many of the children requiring foster care have physical or mental challenges, and disruptive behaviours that require a high degree of specific focus and attention. In addition they are facing the general difficulties of being separated from the familiar people and things in their lives.
The type of care provided by Foster Parents can vary, including:
- sporadic respite care – a few days, or weeks
- short term fostering – a few days up to two years
- long term fostering – any amount of time until the child reaches adulthood
Carers need to be prepared to welcome into their homes children from a variety of backgrounds, and offer them consistent care and support until the day comes when their services are no longer required. Saying goodbye to a foster child can be difficult, but it is part of the role and most carers say that seeing the difference they have made in the lives of the children in their care helps to ease any sadness they may feel when a child leaves. A good foster carer can have a significant positive impact on the life of a child. If the role remains of interest to you then don’t delay – contact your local fostering service today. They, and the children they represent, need your help.